The government has blocked 22 YouTube based news channels and several social media accounts for spreading fake news. The blocked YouTube channels include 18 Indian and four Pakistan based.
According to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the four Pakistan based YouTube news channels used logos of TV news channels & false thumbnails to mislead viewers. Besides, the government has also blocked three Twitter handles, one Facebook account and one news website.
"The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 260 crore, and were used to spread fake news, and coordinated disinformation over social media on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order," I&B Minister said in a statement.
This is the first time action has been taken against the Indian YouTube based news publishers since the notification of the IT Rules, 2021 in February last year.
During the analysis of content, it was found that multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. The content ordered to be blocked also included certain anti-India content posted from multiple social media accounts operated in a coordinated manner from Pakistan.
"It was observed that a significant amount of false content published by these Indian YouTube-based channels related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries," the Ministry said.
The blocked Indian YouTube channels were using templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic, it said.
"False thumbnails were used and title and thumbnail of the videos were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media. In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan," it added.
The government has since December 2021 issued directions for blocking of 78 YouTube based news channels and several other social media accounts on grounds related to national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, etc.